Vegan already? Excellent! Then keep calm, vegan on, and scroll down for latest post.
Vegan already? Excellent! Then keep calm, vegan on, and scroll down for latest post.
It means, if nothing else, that you are a witness.
On a continual basis, you are bearing witness to the cruelty and atrocity waged on innocent sentient beings, and while that may sound passive, it really isn't. Seeing, recognizing and acknowledging what others refuse to see, is the first step in changing reality.
Being vegan also means that you're a humanist and a feminist. A human rights advocate, animal rights advocate, a poverty advocate, and a peace advocate. In short, and to sum it all up, YOU are a truth advocate.
You're a student and a teacher, learning and imparting knowledge as you go. You may be a mentor and/or mentee, a mover and a shaker, and some of you are even leaders.
You're an artist and a rebel, a dreamer and a visionary (What is now proved was once, only imagin’d. --William Blake), and a poet.
You're an optimist, an idealist, and a realist all rolled into one.
You're a gardener. Literally, if you happen to grow your own veggies or flower beds, or figuratively as you plant seeds of compassion and change. You're an environmentalist, championing the cause of our host planet and ALL her guests. You're even a nutritionist of sorts, as you pay more attention to what your body needs than most.
You're a warrior for all sentient beings, plus a conscientious objector to the unholy and horrific war on animals.
You're an intersectionist, deconstructionist, and systems analyst as you figure out how justice issues intersect, and how different political, economic and cultural forces collide and collude in keeping oppression alive.
You may be tired, or suffer from compassion fatigue, or even PTSD as unrelenting cruelty will affect anyone trying to make this world a better place. What you are NOT though, is crazy (although living in an insane world can certainly be crazy making), and you are definitely not a domestic terrorist no matter what the real terrorists may claim.
What you ARE is strong, and motivated, and perhaps even a bit of a hero.
So don't ever think of yourself as just a vegan.
Because you're not.
Back in March (um, where did April go?) I discussed the phrase listen to your body, so now I'd like to talk about listening to your body vegan style. What does that mean? It means that if you're going to "listen to your body" you listen to your head, your heart, and your feet, all from a vegan perspective. From top to bottom:
Use your head. Another phrase you're no doubt familiar with, but an important one for vegans contemplating abandoning their convictions. I'm assuming you became vegan at least in part because of information your brain processed regarding animal use and abuse. Visual and numerical data made you pay attention. A shift in consciousness occurred because you allowed this data to not only be added to what you already knew, but to change how you felt and behaved.
So why ignore this accumulated body of knowledge when you're tempted to stray from the vegan path? Is your position that what you know about animal suffering and death doesn't matter? Or that this cruelty matters less than your own appetite? And why not take advantage of all the useful information out there? If concerns about health are really at the heart of your wavering commitment to animal justice, then why not seek out the expertise from professional vegan dieticians? I mentioned Jack and Ginny in the post referred to above, but what I admire about their approach is how they don't shy away from what vegans might not like to hear. Their philosophy is science above wishful thinking, and that makes me trust what they have to say. If I actually felt that my nutritional needs were being compromised by my vegan intake, I wouldn't hesitate to consult them before reverting back to a diet that harms others.
Don't want to contact them? Then do research on your own from other qualified sources. And part of proper research is determining IF your sources are qualified. What's their background? Their funding sources? Are they employed or supported by any organizations that profit from animal use?
While information is invaluable, it's pretty useless if your heart isn't open to receive it. You can throw all the scientific and well-documented data about animal use/abuse at someone, but if they're not ready to hear it, then they just won't make the connection. Receiving behaviour-changing information involves two organs: heart and brain. Both need to be receptive. (One of the reasons activists keep plugging away is that we can't know when and how the seeds we plant may eventually become fertile.) But you're vegan already, so your heartstrings were successfully tugged at and reached before. Why discard what your heart feels now? Compassion is what likely drove you to become vegan in the first place. Has that well of empathy really dried up?
Wondering what feet have to do with any of this? Becoming vegan changed your vision. It allowed you to see the injustice of how we treat other sentient beings, each other included. Your feet became more firmly planted in the knowledge of how our various economic, health, political, social, and legal organizations intersect to continue justifying and profiting from animal use.
So don't let your feet do a runner when it comes to vegan consciousness. Stay put, my friend, and utilize ALL of your bits and parts to keep listening to your body vegan style!
Other holidays do too, but the more dominant emotion that both Thanksgiving and Christmas evoke for me, for example, is sadness. Sadness at the senseless slaughter of all those sentient beings who would rather stay alive. Who so deserve to stay alive.
Easter, on the other hand, being such an important Christian holiday, stirs up more anger in me not only because animal beings and products are the theme of this equally secular holiday, but because of the Christian justification of animal use. This justification hits even more close to home as all of my siblings and parents are active church members, I currently work in a Christian retirement home, and live in a small town with a seemingly disproportionately large and vocal Christian population.
This isn't to say that I'm anti-Christian per se. Religious upbringing (indoctrination some would say) can be hard to shake, and I believe that being vegan is the Christian thing to do. (In my opinion, you can be vegan without being Christian, but you can't be a true Christian without also being vegan. Otherwise, it would render the term "Christian" empty and meaningless.) It isn't to say that Christianity doesn't have lots of doctrine that supports veganism. Christ himself, I believe, (whether you view him as a once living or mythical figure) was vegan at heart, and would be vegan if he were alive today. And it isn't to say that I don't know of some very fine vegan Christians.
But the fact of the matter is that most Christians aren't vegan, the Bible does not explicitly endorse veganism enough, and Christian teachings are actively misused to justify animal exploitation. The word dominion, for example, has been bastardized to mean domination instead of stewardship. And if ANY group of people could be thought of as having a mandate to care for all of God's creation (if you happen to believe in any of the various forms of creationism), wouldn't it be Christians? Secular vegans rightly believe that all sentient beings are worthy of respect, that caring for them is the ethical thing to do, the morally right stance if you will. But Christians, one would think, would have an even deeper reason to not use and abuse any living creature if they truly believed that God loves all. Sadly, most Christians do not adhere to this. And in a sense, I believe this makes animal cruelty all the crueler and morally wrong when inflicted by a person who espouses to being Christian.
On a more personal level, it irritates me that my Christian family has no real interest in why I'm vegan. They're all smart, so unfortunately I can't lay the blame on them not being bright enough to grasp vegan principles. And while it's possible (okay, likely) that I'm hugely projecting here, I sometimes get the sense that while they're a bit sad I'm not "saved", they're actually quite pleased with themselves for tolerating my "vegan lifestyle" and for not saying too much about it. Actually, for the most part, not anything. In this way, they can view themselves as liberal without having to examine their own morals and their own role in perpetuating animal violence. Can you tell this bugs me? Because a part of me feels that if they truly thought I was an intelligent and moral person, they would actually listen to what I have to say. Ah, family dynamics. No wonder so many vegan organizations suggest concentrating on strangers rather than family!
Another aspect of Christianity and veganism is that on a certain level I think Christians are even harder to reach than folk who aren't religious. Because while you would think the Golden Rule would hold even more weight with those religiously inclined, Christians in particular seem to feel that their god has given them permission to do whatever the fuck they want with animals use and abuse other animals as they see fit. It's almost as if you have to do an extra layer of work: No, the cruelty and death we inflict on other sentient beings is wrong, no, we don't have the right to do that, AND no, we don't have God's permission to do so.
Where I stand on animal sentience and rights is pretty clear to me. Not so clear is Christianity. Having been immersed since birth (similar to how society immerses us in trying to accept animal use/abuse as normal), I still want to accept the good of this religion while rejecting the bad. I remember as a small kid arguing with my mom that if God was perfect and just then of course Jews and Muslims would be going to heaven as well, in large part because I think kids naturally have a strong and innate sense of justice. By the time I was twelve I vacillated between thinking I'd be a church minister when I got older, or an atheist. Talk about all or nothing, snort. Instead, I've been on the believer-agnostic-atheist circular loop numerous times, and that will likely not change. Which is fine, because ultimately what you DO is more important than what you say or believe.
I still believe that the Christ figure (whether real or mythical), was a fine dude and a social revolutionary of his time. An early feminist (he believed women could be teachers, and working women, even prostitutes, were not untouchable), animal liberator (that whole Temple thing), and champion of the poor and downtrodden. I often quip that I get along with Jesus just fine, but that it's his dad I have issues with. And would give a real piece of my mind to, if, um, given that chance.
Anyway, thanks for listening to my Easter rant. Please hug a bunny if you can this weekend, or donate to a rescue organization that provides homes to these fellow beings.
A peaceful and blessed Easter to you all! :)
When was the last time you listened to your body? I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, but whenever I come across the phrase, "I listened to my body" online, it invariably seems to lead to the author admitting that they're no longer vegan. And it's annoying.
So I began thinking about those five little words a bit more. Because on the surface of it, it makes sense. If your body is telling you that you're tired, you should rest. If your body hurts, the pain is telling you that something is wrong. Just like the emotions of being sad, mad or scared tells you that something is out of whack; either you've suffered a loss, feel an injustice has been done, or are being alerted to danger. In short, your emotions are useful tools worth listening to.
But in general we don't tend to listen to our bodies all that much. Or that well. How many of us get enough sleep? Shut off the TV as soon as we get bored? Or keep on doing what we're doing even though we're sore? Then why do our listening skills fly out the window when our body is telling us to get more exercise? Or to eat more greens? Why don't our bodies tell us more clearly that we shouldn't be pumping it full with excess sugar, fat, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or other drugs? Or do we just not want to listen?
So why do we then all of a sudden listen very carefully when we think our bodies are telling us to dump our vegan ideals? Why do we pay close attention when we think we hear our body say, "I want meat! I want eggs! I want dairy! And I want them now." Selective hearing? Because how often do we really hear the phrase "listen your body" otherwise? Just saying.
And I would advise those who believe their body is telling them to forget about plants to make sure they're getting enough calories, protein, carbs and healthy fats, because being deficient in those can indeed cause cravings. I would also suggest they contact a trained professional like registered dietitians Ginny Messina or Jack Norris. I, for one, wouldn't hesitate to get their advice if my flesh was telling me to ditch my ideals.
Lastly, but I'd say most importantly, why is "listening to the bodies" of other animals thrown out the window when your own body seems to speak? And unless you always pay attention and follow through when it offers truly helpful advice, why listen now?
p.s. I wasn't going to post today. I had no intention of doing any writing, but something "spoke" to me while I was sitting on my butt, so I decided to listen. ;)
The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. --JOSEPH ADDISON
So does this mean that vegans are the happiest humans on earth? Snort. Because boy do we have enough to do, enough to be passionate about (including enough someones to love), and hopefully have enough belief that change will happen. But happy? I try to be, but am not quite sure I can truly say I've become happier since becoming vegan. Being vegan brings with it a mixed bag of emotions, and while being vegan is generally much healthier, there are days where I think I can literally feel my blood pressure going through the roof while reading about yet another atrocity. For someone who still struggles with anger issues from pre-vegan days, anger specifically related to the abominable use and treatment of other sentient beings is another form of anger that rises up almost daily. And underneath that anger is sadness and fear. Sadness at the amount of unacceptable and seemingly unlimited pain needlessly suffered at human hands, and the fear that it can't or won't be stopped quickly or wholly enough.
And what about the sentient beings we're fighting for? What about their happiness? If the author of the above quote is right, then what about all the animals who don't have something to do? Who don't get to exercise their basic right to do what their species is meant to do? Who are physically confined so that they literally don't have a choice? Who are prevented from having something or someone to love? Who can't possibly have any hope other than perhaps of having their miserable existence ended sooner rather than later? Why shouldn't their right to happiness be as inalienable as ours?
And is it selfish of vegans to want to be happy despite the massive suffering we are witness to? How do we reconcile happiness and grief? How do we continue to be effective activists amidst the emotional flux of anger, sadness and fear swirling all around or inside us? How do we be strong activists for life and prevent burnout, compassion or even vegan fatigue? How do we find that right mix of hope, inspiration, action (vegan + nonvegan), and rest that will serve not only ourselves but also others?
As usual, I have more questions than answers...
Either you are, or you aren't.
Um, no, I don't agree with that. Because while it's true that you can't be pregnant-ish, you most certainly CAN be vegan-ish, and that's exactly what we have to encourage folk to move towards if they aren't ready to embrace veganism whole hog, so to speak. (A speciesist phrase no doubt, but also a good example of how animal use and abuse is so embedded in our language.)
And while I understand the appeal of this pithy saying, I don't think it's terribly helpful in trying to get more people to adopt a vegan path. It also reflects a rigid and dichotomous black-or-white, either/or way of thinking that personally drives me nuts. You can't force veganism on someone else, so wouldn't it be better to help people discover how some of their values align with veganism already? Wouldn't it be more effective to let them discover their inner vegan, if you will? I want people to aspire to be part of the vegan movement even if they're not quite ready yet to go the whole distance. I want them to at least HAVE vegan ideals. So how is an either you're 100% in, or we'll consider you 100% out approach useful? Sure, it may foster certain group cohesion, but don't we want our small (and sometimes clique-like) group to grow? Even if it means messy imperfection and folk disagreeing about labels, I want ALL of us to want to use V words: vegan, veganish, veganist, vegan-in-progress, mostly vegan, veggie, vegetarian. Hurray for them all I say! :)
Two other vegan phrases I also find annoying (although I'm sure there's more, snort) and may address in future include:
Like most folk I'm familiar enough with the more classic hits of Simon and Garfunkel, but when I heard the simple yet hauntingly beautiful Sparrow, I knew I had to share:
Who will love a little Sparrow?
♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪
Greed, vanity, and hypocrisy abound. So, who will love the little sparrows?
* from their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3AM, released October 19, 1964
(Julia's piglets asleep at Farm Sanctuary)
To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life. --ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
I believe that. And because billions of other sentient beings are denied that basic right, their birthright if you will, it should behoove us humans to become the best we can be.
Welcome to the first day of the New Year. Welcome to the first of 365 days where you can make a real difference. Whether newly vegan or a seasoned activist, today is the day where you can improve your health, the health of the environment, and most important of all, the health and happiness of other sentient beings who share our planet. Today is a fresh day of a fresh year, but every day of the next 364 days is a chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew.
The framework for this endeavour is love and compassion. For ourselves (yes, we may stumble), each other (no one is perfect), the innocent beings who suffer mightily at the hands of our supposedly superior species, and even (as hard as it may be) the ones who knowingly or unknowingly inflict such suffering. What would love do is a question that can guide us as we try to make the world better.
Joy may thus seem like a frivolous component when there's so much animal (both human and non-human) suffering going on, but without the lightness and hope that joy brings, it's too easy to get swallowed up in the pain and darkness that most of us confront daily. It would be wise for us to remember that many of us humans are drawn in part to other beings because they instinctively know how to live in the moment, how to derive pleasure and joy in the ordinary activities of living. Some of us may kid ourselves into thinking that we are more advanced, but we would do well to learn from those we denigrate.
You may have asked yourself upon reading my series of previous posts what excitement had to do with being vegan. In short, life's too short to be without it. In my own particular case, coming up with new ideas is when I feel most fully alive and is one of my biggest sources of satisfaction. The point here isn't what actually excites you (like feelings, they're neither right nor wrong), but how you apply your passions to making things better. There's lots of ways activists can contribute to animal well-being, and doing what you're good at, what you en(joy), and what gives you energy, is the surest way to become and stay involved. After all, we're in this for the long run!
What can YOU do? Well, lots. And it's up to you to decide how others will be best served. There's a plethora of skills, interests and knowledge that's needed and for you to draw upon. The key is doing what personally draws you in and what you find satisfying and sustaining. Don't make the mistake though of trying to do too much, thinking you can or should do everything. You can't, and any attempt will backfire. I even sometimes wonder if some of the ex-vegan spectacular about-face stories are the result of burnout. Can't do what I thought I could, so won't do anything at all. The aim here is balance. Be a super duper activist if that's what you want, but don't let it be your whole life. In other words, don't live in a vegan bubble. It won't help them at all, nor you.
Laughter, like joy or excitement, may seem superfluous as well when lives are at stake, but it really isn't. If you're going to try to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself as well. Laughter releases endorphins, releases and provides energy, and is vital especially because of the often-grim nature of what we face and do. A sense of humour is key, even more so because of the stereotype that vegans don't have one!
Gratitude, as talked about in the prior post (can't believe I forgot to mention Vegg by the way!), can grease the activist engine so to speak. Building upon gains and successes develops confidence and stamina, having a supportive vegan community (even if only online) strengthens your resolve to keep doing what you're doing. And what you're doing is creating a vegan world. Slowly perhaps, but it's becoming more visible, more real and more concrete year by year. You're part of an historical movement (future generations may say with pride that you were the first in their family to go vegan) that will one day change the world forever. And the lives of her inhabitants.
Being a fan of Seth Godin (does that make me a godinite?), I'd like to end with a few questions he raised in his blog post today:
A year ago today, do you remember where you stood?
Are you more trusted? More skilled? More connected to people who care about your work?
How many people [sentient beings] would miss your work if you stopped contributing it? *
Today is the first day of 365 fresh days. So enjoy, and use wisely.
p.s. after drafting this post, I of course stumbled upon a book that covers what I tried to convey here, but likely more convincingly and probably better written -- check it out: The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way
* ironically, as I was typing those words, I received an unsubscription notification from a long-time blog reader, snort, so my final tip would be to stay humble! ;)
While it's easy to get down by the seemingly constant barrage of negative news (even more so when you're vegan), being grateful for the things that you have and for the things that go right is a good practice to cultivate. Not only is it an effective coping tool and a pleasant way to increase your awareness of joyfulness, I believe it's what we owe for the privilege of being a guest on planet Earth.
(Having said that, I must admit I positively enjoyed Barbara Ehrenreich's skillful skewering of the positive thinking movement in her insightful and often funny Bright-Sided.)
New Vegan Age made some great observations three days ago about four reasons to feel grateful in 2013 (including our veganism, our past, our present, and our future), but what I thought I'd do here is list a few specific things that I'm personally grateful for. Please add to the list, or make up your own! Oh, and in case you're wondering about the series of one-liner posts that I ran these past six days, they're leading up to a summary post planned for tomorrow.
15 Vegan Things I'm Grateful For:
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Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful. --Buddha